Racing Champions To Attend AARWBA Dinner BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Champions Dario Franchitti (IZOD IndyCar Series), J.R. Hildebrand (IRL Firestone Indy Lights), Donny Schatz (World of Outlaws), and Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (Grand-Am Rolex Sports...
Racing Champions To Attend AARWBA Dinner
BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Champions Dario Franchitti (IZOD IndyCar Series), J.R. Hildebrand (IRL Firestone Indy Lights), Donny Schatz (World of Outlaws), and Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series/Daytona Prototype) have confirmed they will attend the 40th annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-America Team Dinner and Ceremony Saturday, Jan. 16 at John Force Racing headquarters.
The event, which will kick off AARWBA's 55th year, is open to the public. Tickets ($65) are available through Jan. 10 at www.aarwba.org or by mail at AARWBA, 922 North Pass Avenue, Burbank, CA 91505.
Joie Chitwood will be the keynote speaker, and AARWBA will honor Chip Ganassi as its 2009 Pioneer in Racing. Host is 14-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, a four-time Titus Award honoree.
Joining Franchitti, Fogarty, Gurney, Hildebrand, and Schatz on the 2009 First Team are seven-time National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel titlist Tony Schumacher, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runner-up Mark Martin and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday.
Drivers represent seven categories -- Open Wheel, Stock Car, Road Racing, Drag Racing, Short Track, Touring Series, and At-Large. Each First Team honoree will receive the prestigious Horsepower Trophy.
From the First Team members will come the recipient of the Jerry Titus Award, given in remembrance of the late racer/journalist. It signifies the top vote-getter on the All-America Team regardless of category -- AARWBA's Driver of the Year. Rocky Entriken, chairman of the AARWBA All-America Selections, said balloting for the 2009 Titus Award came down to a two-vote margin.
Franchitti and Schumacher have won the Jerry Titus Award, for AARWBA's Driver of the Year, the past three years. Schumacher's 2006 and 2008 triumphs sandwiched Franchitti's 2007 honor.
Schumacher indicated he might be able to take a break from testing at West Palm Beach , Fla., to receive his Horsepower Trophy in person but otherwise will be represented by a U.S. Army contingent from Fort Knox, Ky. Schumacher, sponsored by the U.S. Army, recently presented his NHRA championship trophy to the soldiers, family, and community at Fort Hood at Killeen, Texas, during "Fort Hood Community Strong Day," joining actors Gary Sinise, comedian Dana Carvey, and pop star Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.
"The really cool thing about being on the All America Team for me and Alex is that it gives us the opportunity to be recognized with other champions of the sport," Fogarty, driver of the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley, said. "It brings us close to some great drivers we will really only be associated with because the AARWBA organization has stayed so dedicated to the All America awards program for so many years. I mean, chances are excellent that Alex and I will never race against Tony Schumacher or Donny Schatz - not that I wouldn't love to - but being able to be honored as peer champions with those guys puts a cool touch on what has already been a great season. I really appreciate everything the media members do for racing all year long."
Gurney, Fogarty's GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing teammate, said, "It is a great honor to join Jon in once again being elected to the All America Team. It's been an amazing few years and having now won two sports car championships as well as this award, I now feel part of a very exclusive club! I look back at all of the great winners, including my Dad back in 1970, and it is really special to be among them, not once but now twice. I want to thank the media who voted for us and also their dedication in covering all forms of auto racing."
According to Entriken, "the shocker came in the Stock Car category, where Jimmie Johnson, on the heels of his unprecedented fourth straight Sprint Cup (crown), and sentimental favorite Mark Martin virtually split the vote."
Martin won by just two votes. This is Martin's 15th time as an All-America, his fifth on the First Team. It is the eighth time Johnson has made the team.
But this time Johnson landed on the Second Team with some distinguished company: Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, drag-racing Funny Car sensation Ashley Force Hood, World of Outlaws headliner Joey Saldana, road-racing veterans David Brabham and Scott Sharp, 13-time NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Frank Manzo, and ARCA Re/Max Rookie of the Year and series runner-up Parker Kligerman.
Receiving Honorable Mention with at least five percent of the vote, were NASCAR stars Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart (Stock Car), the teams of Gil deFerran/Simon Pagenaud and Luis Diaz/Adrian Fernandez (Road Racing), Levi Jones and Brad Kuhn (Short Track), Justin Lofton (Touring Series), Travis Pastrana/Christian Edstrom (At-Large), and Larry Dixon, Mike Edwards, and Robert Hight (Drag Racing).
"This is a great honor," Hight said, "and one that I am excited to share with my teammate, Ashley Force Hood. We battled all season for the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Championship and both of our teams had great success.
"John Force has been a member of the AARWBA All-America Team 15 times, so making my first All-America Team is a very big deal," Hight said. "I have to thank Jimmy Prock, my crew guys, as well as the Automobile Club of Southern California, for putting me in this position."
Force Hood, who finished second to Hight in points and raced in eight final rounds during the season, also deferred to her team and her crew chiefs.
"We had a wonderful season and were really able to step up to the plate and be competitive against some very talented and experienced Funny Car teams," she said. "I'm very excited to be on the All-America Team my dad has been on so many times, especially seeing all the talented people alongside me.
"But for me and my sponsor, Castrol GTX, it's really a team honor. We've won together and lost together and overcome many challenges together. So I will be honored to accept on behalf of my crew, my crew chiefs, Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, and, of course, my dad, John Force."